Camden Thursday was over-prepared, as usual.
Still, despite hours of memorizing code and enough binary hacks to make his eyeballs explode, nothing could have prepared him for what he was looking at now. Sure, he’d expected the tech in the Aeon Turbo G90 to be mind-blowingly impressive—given it was the most advanced vehicle on the roadways today and the federal government had the only prototype in the world. Or at least they had until the damned thing had been stolen and ended up here at Knight’s Body and Repair—quite possibly the seediest garage in Washington, D.C. What he hadn’t expected, however, was the female mechanic apparently trying to hijack the thing out from under his nose at two in the morning.
Luckily, Cam wasn’t just a computer whiz Brainiac—as the other guys at Norse Security seemed to think. He was also a former Navy SEAL with the brawn and physical training to handle any situation. Breaking himself out of that geek hacker box they’d put him in was the main reason why he was here. Well, that and this was his first mission for his new employer, a chance to prove to himself and the other guys he was just as GI Joe as the rest of them, that he was more than the resident “tech guy” on their team, more than a brain on legs.
Silently, he waited until the woman was busy fiddling with something under the vehicle’s hood, then crept over to grab her from behind in a bear hold, preventing her from using that nasty looking wrench in her hand on his skull.
“What the fuck?” she gasped, struggling to escape from his hold. “Let me go!”
He managed to corral her kicking legs between his own muscled thighs and pinned her against the car, holding both the woman’s wrists behind her back in one hand while reaching for her utility light with the other. Cam aimed the light at her face to see her better and—
Of all the people to run into tonight, it would have to be his high school crush.
Everly Knight still looked as beautiful as he remembered—all long, thick dark hair and big, brown doe eyes. She seemed to recognize him too, if her disdainful once-over was any indication. That surprised Cam, since he looked a lot different than he had twelve years ago. Adding one hundred pounds of new muscle would do that to a guy.
“Well, if it isn’t Geek Squad. All grown up and looking for trouble,” she said, her gaze narrowing. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“The name’s Camden. Camden Thursday.” He stared down at her, noticing a slight bump on the bridge of her nose that hadn’t been there before, like maybe she’d been in a fight or broken it. He frowned. “And I can ask you the same thing. This doesn’t belong to you.”
“Not yours either.” She squirmed against him and damn if it didn’t set off an array of interesting sparks through his bloodstream. He’d been without a woman for too long, that had to be it. The last thing he needed right know was to starting thinking with his cock instead of his brain. He was more than capable of handling a mission on his own, same as Kevin and Hunter. And he wouldn’t prove his point by screwing an old flame. Even if she’d been up for it, which judging from the glare she was shooting him right now, she wasn’t.
Cam took the wrench from her hand, just in case she got any ideas about whacking him with it, then released her. He stepped back but still kept a wary eye on Everly. From her grease stained jeans and rumpled black T-shirt, it was pretty apparent she’d been working on the Aeon, but why? There’d been nothing wrong with it when it was stolen. At least that’s what he’d been told. “What do you want with that car?”
“What do you want with it?” she countered, crossing her arms over her chest and highlighting her magnificent rack.
“You gonna answer all my questions with more questions?” Cam slapped her wrench against his palm, hoping to dispel some of his nervous energy. “It’s two in the damned morning.”
“Maybe.” She picked up a nearby rag and wiped her hands. “And thanks for the update.”
Cam exhaled slowly and prayed for patience. They’d grown up in the same tough neighborhood, both from the wrong side of the tracks. Her dad had owned this auto body shop back then too, Cam remembered. Rumor had it he had ties to the mob and they ran a chop shop on the side out of this hole in the wall garage. Cam glanced around the grungy place, through the stacks of ragged tires and used vehicle parts scattered about and noticed the crooked, rusted metal sign tacked to the wall proclaiming “Knight’s Body and Repair. We pay for scrap metal.”
He’d bet good money they were still in the “salvage” business now, if Everly’s peeved glare was any indication. She gave a dismissive sigh then tossed her towel aside and went back to poking around under the hood of the Aeon. Was she stripping it for parts already? He couldn’t let that happen. Norse Security’s contract with the feds was for the car returned intact and in good working order. And with the software working, of course. For that’s where the Aeon’s real value was—the high-tech computer chips inside the car. Which made this the perfect mission for Cam.
“Funny seeing you again after all these years?” Everly said, her tone as flat as her stare.
“Hmm.” Cam set the thick, steel wrench aside and determinedly kept his gaze from roaming over Everly’s well-formed ass sticking out from beneath the hood as she worked. What he needed to concentrate on was getting inside the car and driving it the hell out of here, but he couldn’t do that with Everly tinkering around under the hood. There had to be a way to get her to move. And if there wasn’t, then dammit, he’d move her. He wasn’t a man who typically got handsy with women, unless they specifically asked him to. His momma, single and poor as she’d been, had still raised him right. But Cam was on a tight schedule and Everly seemed in no hurry whatsoever to finish up whatever the fuck she was doing with the Aeon’s engine. It occurred to him that she was stalling for time, same as him, and that if this place was a front for the mob and she was after this stolen vehicle too, then most likely she wouldn’t let him take it without a fight.
He looked around again, wondered how long it would be until the mob showed up to claim their prize. Not long, he guessed, based on the fact the car was sitting out in the open with no attempt to hide it. Best to make his move fast.
Cam’s gaze darted back to the hood and he found Everly watching him now too, the gleam in her dark eyes calculating, whip smart. He remembered that about her too. He’d always been a sucker for intelligent women.
In the end, they both made a dash for the drivers’ side door handle at the same time, then wrestled awkwardly to get into the vehicle. So much for avoiding confrontation. Once the door was open, they battled to claim the drivers’ seat. Somehow, Cam managed to beat her into it, but that didn’t stop Everly from sitting down on top of him, right in his goddamned lap.
Man, good thing the guys couldn’t see him now. Getting turned on by a squirming suspect trying to jack him out of his mission goal. No way would Everly get this car.
No. Fucking. Way.
And yeah, maybe she did feel good, her sweet curves rubbing against him in all the right places. Didn’t mean he was giving up this fight anytime soon. Hell, no. He was a SEAL for fuck’s sake. He’d trained to endure the harshest torture, the most brutal conditions. Bumping and grinding against Everly Knight in a stolen, top-secret vehicle was a walk in the park compared to that shit. Nothing on earth would keep him from getting this vehicle under his control and getting it back to the Norse Security Offices as soon as possible. And no one—not God, and certainly not beautiful, bewildering Everly Knight—was going to stop him.
Cam wrapped an arm around her waist and leaned forward to hiss in her ear. “You trying to drive this car or ride me ‘til I cum, sweetness?”
She gave an angry snarl. “Get your fucking hands off me and get out of my car!”
“Your car?” He snorted. “Last time I checked, this vehicle wasn’t registered to you. It’s the property of the United States of America.”
“Yeah? Well, that means it isn’t yours either.” Everly dug her nails into his forearm, teeth bared, and Cam growled. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “And I wouldn’t sleep with you if you were the last man on earth, asshole.”
“Want to bet?”
They wrestled some more until it started feeling way too good and Cam’s body reacted in kind. Everly too seemed to be breathing a bit harder than before and her skin looked flushed. Cam rested his forehead against her back and caught her scent—cinnamon and vanilla and a hint of motor oil. She stopped struggling for a moment. He smiled and took advantage, giving Everly one last hard shove and managed to push her out the door before he slammed it shut behind her. The locks slid into place with a satisfying click.
Cam took a moment to gloat as a stunned Everly wheeled around to face him. He had to admit the air tight seals on the vehicle were excellent. He couldn’t hear a single one of the furious curses she was hurling his way, though her furious expression and obscene finger gestures were easy to interpret. Cam just grinned then focused on studying the electronic control panels lighting up the dashboard.
Tech was his specialty. He had a Master’s degree in Computer Science from USC that he’d earned while still working with his SEAL team around the world. Time to put those skills and all his late-night research to good use. A new idea occurred as he reached into his jacket pocket for the gadget he’d brought. He’d bet half his budget for this mission that Everly had been trying to hotwire the car to get it out of here before the shop opened again in the morning or before the mob showed up to claim their goods, but that would never work. Part of the Aeon’s brilliant design was in its top-notch security system. No regular keyless entry or ignition system here. Nope. To start this vehicle, you needed a ten-digit passcode.
Of course, he didn’t have the passcode either, but Cam was betting on the fact he could use the gadget in his pocket to discover it. He plugged the small black codebreaking device he’d developed into a hidden USB port beneath the Aeon’s dash then sat back, giving Everly a little wave and smile. She answered with a double-barreled set of middle fingers and walked over to pick up her wrench again.
Cam cringed. Would she actually try to use that thing to bust in? Good luck, considering the Aeon had been designed with special bulletproof, shatterproof glass built to withstand enormous pressures and impacts. Then again, she’d always had a lot of spunk. In school, she’d always been in trouble, it seemed like. Always sitting in the principal’s office waiting for a reprimand. Cam had been a model student back then, despite never having enough money and his mom working two jobs to support them.
Finally, Cam’s device beeped as the last digit clicked into place. He reached forward and pressed the Start Engine button with a grin.
He scowled and pushed once more.
Cam jiggled the wires connecting his device to the console and tried a third time.
A knock on his window had him turning slowly to see Everly standing there, holding two spark plugs in her palm. With her other hand, she mimicked the same smartass wave he’d given her earlier. Her full lips curved into the same fake smile.
After a deep breath for patience, Cam pressed the button to lower the window. The glass hissed downward. “Put them back.”
“Nope. Not until you give me that passcode.”
“Not going to happen.”
“Guess we’re stuck here then.”
They stared at each other across the span of a few feet, neither giving an inch. A standoff without the guns. Then the rumble of an engine approached and two headlights flashed through the glass near the top of the garage doors on the opposite side of the squat cinder block building. The sound of crunching gravel pinged through the air like an alarm. Someone else had arrived, and Cam didn’t think it was the good guys.
“Expecting company?” His gaze darted from the reflection of the open bay door to the rear of the Aeon to Everly.
“No.” She cursed under her breath and rushed back to the front. A couple of squeaks issued, then the hood slammed down to reveal Everly with her hands on her hips, her expression concerned. “Try the engine again.”
He did. This time the Aeon purred to life, just as a series of loud bangs issued from the closed bay doors. It would only be a matter of minutes before they discovered the open bay behind him. If he was going to get out of there, now was the time to do it. With a last glance at Everly, Cam jammed the transmission into reverse and pressed the accelerator, backing cautiously toward the exit. Before he reached it however, two hulking thugs filled the entryway, guns drawn.
“Shit!” Everly raced to the Aeon’s passenger side and yanked on the locked handle. “Let me in! Please! C’mon, Camden! They’ll kill me if you don’t. Please!”
Something about the way she said his name, the desperation in her voice, tugged deep inside him. Common sense said he should leave her here, let her deal with the consequences of her actions, take the car and get back to the Norse Security offices as ordered. Too bad his SEAL honor wouldn’t let him. She was a woman in trouble, a damsel in distress. This was not part of his original plan, and having her along would only complicate things, but he couldn’t leave Everly here to face those thugs alone. It would be a death sentence.
Once she’d scrambled into her seat and closed the door, Cam punched the gas, hurtling backwards. He’d not felt any telltale thuds or bumps, meaning the car was intact and the two thugs hadn’t gotten run over. He closed his window as the two thugs recovered themselves from where they’d tumbled to the ground, then came at him again, weapons ready. The tinted glass made it hard for him to ID the two goons and vice versa.
Cam exhaled slow, wincing as bullets pinged off the Aeon’s exterior. Kevin, or Loki as the guys called him, would be fucking furious if there was so much as a dent in this car. His orders were to return it in perfect working order, tech and all other parts intact. “Which escape route’s the best?”
“This alley leads to the main road and will give us the best chance of losing them.” Everly must’ve caught his incredulous look because she shrugged. “That’s what I’ve heard anyway.”
“Uh huh. Right.” Cam glanced into the rearview mirror at the open exit behind him and said a silent prayer before peeling out of the garage in a squeal of tires and burning rubber. They bumped down the pothole-riddled alleyway, the pitch darkness split by two high-intensity halogen headlights. “Best buckle up. I’d hate to lose you so soon.”
She chuckled. “Baby, as long as you got this car, you ain’t losing me at all.”
“Keep telling yourself that, sweetheart.” Cam swerved out onto the deserted main thoroughfare, glancing into the rearview mirror to see the two thugs stopped at the side of the curb beneath a street light, bent over and out of breath from their foot chase. One of the men had his cell phone pressed to his ear calling in their escape. Their figures grew smaller as the Aeon zoomed away. Cam downshifted and stared out the windshield, heading back toward the Norse offices.
There went his perfectly planned idea to drive this sucker straight back to Norse Security. If the mob was after them now, he needed to make sure he lost his tail before returning to home base. The guys would not look favorably on him bringing all that trouble to their doorstep. First though, he needed to lose Everly Knight as soon as possible.